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The folks over at Air New Zealand are pretty darn excited to offer up some cool seats on their newest non-stop 777-300 service between Auckland and San Francisco, and they're about to brag all over the Bay City.
Service between the cities isn't actually new, but the airline used to fly Boeing 747s on it. Now that those big birds have been retired from their fleet, the 777 is doing the heavy lifting. With this aircraft switch comes a new and improved cabin for the 12-hour flight, finally including those futuristic SpaceSeats in premium economy and the comfy SkyCouch in economy.
The legroom debate is hardly new; did you know, for example, that it's already been a whole four years since Spirit Airlines did away with reclining seats altogether?
It's true and it's sad, but reducing legroom and recline is a route being taken by more airlines as passengers seek lower fares in times of higher fuel prices, and airline still want to make a buck at the end of the day. Cue arguments around the use of Knee Defenders and a need for informational websites like RouteHappy.
Standard economy seats on United
Three times this week have flights been disturbed by passenger fights over the right to recline, and three times this week have the situations proved petty. Alas, it's a hot topic and the details of that initial confrontation (which was so bad as to divert the plane) continue to leak.
Our friend Scott Mayerowitz of the Associated Press spoke with Mr. James Beach, better know to the internet as "Knee Defender Man," who, though repentant for some of his actions once the issue escalated, states that he still plans to use the Knee Defenders on future flights.
The article manages to tell a clearer story of what exactly happened in that United flight from Newark to Denver, which diverted to Chicago because of the argument. It's well worth a read, especially as Mr. Beach's explanations only serve to dig his hole deeper. Take, for example, this:
People are crazy. That is the one thing to keep in mind as we start in on this week's tale of ridiculous behavior on an airplane.
Sunday's United flight 1462 from Newark to Denver was forced to divert to Chicago-O'Hare after a mid-air argument erupted over legroom. The two partiesa man and woman, both coincidentally aged 48 came to harsh words over the man's use of "Knee Defenders" to prevent the woman seated in front of him from reclining.
Knee Defenders (pictured in use, above), are a $21.95 pair of doohickies designed to fit between a meal try and the seat it's attached to, which inhibits the recline of said seat. They are unofficially prohibited by airlines, and Knee Defender itself recommends doing the decent thing of providing a "courtesy card" to explain the use of the devices to the effected parties. Alas, it is apparent that such common decency was absent on this United flight.
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[Also check out Part 1, Business Class]
Premium Economy is so hot right now.
Or, rather, the class between Economy and Business has been a popular addition to aircraft for many years now, every since Virgin Atlantic introduced it way, way back in 1992(!!), but some airlines have held off and, in turn, benefitted from the wait by introducing Premium Economy classes with all the latest bells and whistles.
Flying AC00611 hours back from Tokyo-Haneda to Toronto-Pearsonwe settled into a window seat and experienced what this new class for Air Canada was all about.
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[Also check out Part 2, Premium Economy and Economy]
"Whoever said man wasn't meant to fly didn't see this coming."
These were the words printed on a banner welcoming passengers to gate 172 at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on July 15, 2014.
Outside the windows was one of Air Canada's airplanes, sitting chill in her ice blue livery and scarlet maple leaf logo while a flurry of ground vehicles prepared her for a 12-hour flight to Tokyo. Passengers waiting to board forwent selfies and instead pointed their cameras outside, at this aircraft which stars in the celebration of a new era for Canadian aviation.
But, um, hasn't Air Canada been flying from Toronto to Tokyo for, like, decades? Yes, yes they have, but never before to the Japanese capital's other, very recently updated and better located airport of Haneda, and never before with a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Flight AC005 is non-stop from YYZ to HND, a lengthy trip which gives the benefits of the 787the greater cabin humidity, lower altitude level, improved personal space, and fuel efficiencya chance to strut their stuff. It was, in fact, the longest flight we've ever done in a 787, and absolutely one of the best in our own travel log.
Now, let's delve into the delicious details:
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If the overnight leg on an old angled lie-flat Finnair seat showed us how far business class seats have come, our recent flight on a Japan Airlines Boeing 767 between Osaka-Kansai (KIX) and Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK) almost took us back to a different era, with the above, ageing, manually-controlled cradle-style seats still going strong.
Almost literally coming apart (torn fabric, wobbly armrests), the likelihood you’ll find this seat on your flight is luckily decreasing, having serviced regional routes in Asia, as well as the crazy busy Honolulu to Tokyo return for a long time (in fact, the in-flight entertainment still had destination features on Hawaii on it). Japan Airlines is phasing in its new 787 Dreamliner, as well as upgrading 767s with “Sky Suites”, fully-flat, all-aisle access seats – check them out below.
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Still in signature tones of green, the seat is a variation on a theme that we’ve seen on a variety of carriers now, including Finnair. It reclines to a 2-metre, 6.5-feet bed, features USB ports and a universal plug, as well as various storage spaces for jackets, shoes, and laptops. There is more good news in terms service and experience on the ground too.
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We’ve shown you that business class on a Qatar Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner is not a bad place to spend a few hours, but how does one of the airline’s latest additions compare to the workhorse of the fleet, the Boeing 777? With 34 in total, split between 777-200 and 777-300 versions, Qatar has more of the triple-seven than any other aircraft type at the moment. Connecting from a 787 onto a 777 recently gave us a good opportunity to compare.
We flew the 777 between Doha and Bangkok, a flight that connects further to Hanoi (Vietnam) after a brief stop in Thailand. Consistent on both legs? A virtually empty business class cabin, with less than ten passengers across the 42 seats, which guaranteed not just a seat pair to ourselves, but multiple rows.
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Qatar Airways has 9 Dreamliners operating a number of routes out of its brand-spanking new (and humongous) Hamad International Airport in Doha, and an additional 51 on order from Boeing. We recently did a business class return between Stockholm and Doha, which gave us enough time to explore its swanky interiors.
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Remember when Ryanair announced a few years ago that it was going to experiment with "standing seats" on its flights? The airline said it would be able to offer tickets at extremely low prices, but ultimately the idea got shot down by a regulator, mostly due to concerns over seat belts and safety.
Despite those questions, we found the idea peculiar yet intriguing, especially for commuter flights of an hour or less, say, from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles, Philadelphia to New York, New York to Boston, etc. Would it be so bad to stand for 45 minutes if the cost was significantly less? A new study released this week has once again brought up the concept, finding that airlines that remove seats in favor of a "standing section" could fit 20% more passengers and offer significant discounts on tickets - as much as 44%.
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After many months of coy reveals and growing anticipation, JetBlue>'s first premium seats have hit the skies. Named Mint, the cabin is now available on flights between JFK and LAX, and coming to JFK-SFO in October.
Ahead of the inaugural flight yesterday, JetBlue hosted a trial run on the ground at JFK. For this, we sent a JetBlue flyer who'd never seen the seats before and had an "empty slate" for first impressions.
There's a new plane on the tarmac at New York-JFK Airport, and it's shiny inside as well as out. We're talking about the brand-spankin-new Airbus A321s coming to JetBlue, and their "Mint" cabin of fully flat leather seating. The first of them, appropriately named It’s Mint to Be, is one of the 11 Mint-configured A321s due to be delivered to JetBlue in 2014.